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Schools Open Today; Teachers Say DepEd Not Ready

Schools Open Today; Teachers Say DepEd Not Ready
Teacher Pauline Marie Marasigan-Romero of Rafael Palma Elementary School prepares inside her house in Manila on Sept. 12, 2021 for the 'Balik Eskwela' orientation for parents on the opening of classes today, Sept. 13, 2021. Photo by Edd Gumban, The Philippine STAR

As schools open today, Sept. 13, teachers have claimed that the Department of Education (DepEd) is not yet ready under the new normal setup, with classes mainly through distance learning amid the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), a federation of public school teachers’ associations, said they see a repeat of last school year when the De-pEd had numerous problems with learning resources such as printed and digital learning modules used in remote learning.

“While it may be too late, we hope the DepEd could consider moving the opening of classes further and talk to the stakeholders, especially their frontliners – the teachers, and reflect on the honest assessment of the previous school year,” Olivia de Guzman, TDC national vice chairperson, said.

“Classes will start today but until now, many teachers are still waiting for the provided modules while others are doing their last-ditch effort of printing and reproduction using their own resources. In other schools, even the grouping of students in their respective sections are not done yet,” De Guzman added.

She further said that until now, students and their families still cannot keep up with the online requirement of distance learning, especially those that have lost their livelihood due to the pandemic.

“Although the learning modality in most schools is modular, our teachers still need to guide their children and parents in the lessons, thus they need to communicate using a cellular telephone and internet. Now that many of our areas have movement restrictions due to the ongoing lockdown, teachers cannot visit the kids in their homes. If the family is struggling with livelihood, they will probably prioritize food, instead of telephone or internet,” she explained.

However, the TDC said its biggest sentiment is what it claims as the disregard for public school teachers’ rights and welfare.

Since June 2020, teachers had been given official tasks until the end of the school year in July 2021, it said.

“These tasks have stolen our vacation and our time to rest, without pay. Our clerical tasks and online duties continued and until now, not even a national holiday was spared. We were still forced to attend a whole day virtual seminar and not given the adequate rest needed to recharge physically, emotionally and mentally,” De Guzman said.

Teachers have long called for the implementation of welfare provisions of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (Republic Act No. 4670), especially those related to their health and safety, she added.

“While the DepEd showed propensity in purchasing things that for us are not essential in learning, it ignores the welfare of teachers in its programs and policies and continuously denies the provisions of Magna Carta on health benefits, compensation for injuries, working hours and overtime pay and special hardship allowance, among others. These, in addition to free laptop computers and internet connectivity of teachers are essential expenses, even without the pandemic,” she lamented.

“Some of our colleagues who were infected with COVID-19 and became critical, spent up to millions in hospital bills and some have died. They did not get any help from DepEd,” De Guzman said.

According to the TDC, it is clear that the system is not ready for the opening of classes and this is another concern for them because whatever the DepEd’s shortcomings, teachers are the ones filling these in.

School supplies

Meanwhile, half of the household income of a Filipino family goes to purchase of school supplies, according to a study conducted by the global remittance and digital payments giant WorldRemit.

The study showed that the average cost to send one child to school in the Philippines is $78 or P3,876.60.

Compared alongside the country’s average fertility rate of 2.89 children per household, the total cost of sending a typical household of children back to school reaches an average of $226 or P11,232.20.

With an average annual household income in the Philippines of $3,472 or P172,558.40, which translates to a monthly income of about $289.33 or P14,389.83, the study found that the average Filipino family spends 78% of their total monthly income on basic supplies during the back-to-school season.